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3 Things I'm Trying to Remember This Thanksgiving as Someone With Anxiety

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I never really understood this holiday. Actually, starting from about November through the New Year, I have always dreaded this sequence of holidays. The hardest always came first: Thanksgiving. Growing up, I have little to no memory of my family sitting down at the table eating a nice meal together (whether it was normally on a regular basis or during Thanksgiving). When I went off to college, I thought things would be different. Instead, I spent my first Thanksgiving in college laying on the floor of my tiny dorm room, eating a frozen meal, watching some Food Network on my roommate’s television. The next Thanksgiving was no different, spending it alone in the dorm room yet again.

After leaving my first undergraduate institution for my alma mater (I transferred after sophomore year, but that story is for another post), the flight became more expensive, the journey longer (now it is a four hour flight instead of one hour). I never did find a family to spend Thanksgiving with. I never did have friends who stayed behind. I wasn’t a part of any student organization or church group that hosted “friendsgiving.” I ended up just going into lab to work during Thanksgiving break.

Until two years ago. Everything changed. At the end of fall quarter my senior year, I met my mentor and dear friend. I saw her regularly as my senior year ended and my graduate studies began the following year. I remember the conversation vividly. We were sitting in her office – my sister, my rescue pup, and herself – chatting about the upcoming holidays and what my family did during that time. We were all on the floor trying to pet and play with my pup when she announced I would celebrate Thanksgiving with her family. I was shocked. I was stunned. I had never been a part of anything like this before. That was my first Thanksgiving ever. I had never felt more loved and cared about in that moment, standing in her kitchen, wearing a paper crown, holding my pup and surrounded by her kids. I helped win the pie contest that year.

This year I will be celebrating with them again. However, I do have a lot of anxiety surrounding the holiday. I am in anorexia recovery and struggle with severe anxiety, especially in large groups of people. I get scared of what people think of me – this happens when I am the only person of color or the different one in a group – and I start to busy myself with dishes, serving others, etc. I forget to stop and just be in the moment, to enjoy spending time with the people I love and the people that love me, for simply being me.

This Thanksgiving, here are some things to remember. Whether you are with an adoptive family, your own nuclear family, or friends, keep this in mind (these are as much for myself as for anybody reading this):

1. Be in the moment. This may be the only time the entire year your relatives and family
get together, or the only time your friends all see each other. So remember to stay in the moment and cherish the memories that are being made.

2. Let your guard down a bit. Just take a deep breath and think about how much people in the room love you. Remind yourself how much you love all the people in the room. Just be genuine, just be simply you.

3. Try to savor one bite at a time. I struggle with this, being in anorexia recovery. I still count calories and worry a lot about my body image. But try, please try, to not worry about the calories you are consuming and try to savor each bite of food this Thanksgiving. Don’t think about the fact that “I need to run this off the next day” or “I can’t have this extra slice of pie” because you are eating to nourish your body, to feed your brain the glucose it needs to keep you alive and well. And you are with loved ones. So please, cherish the moment.

Let’s try and enjoy this Thanksgiving this year. It’s the one time during the year where we are able to let down our guard and be surrounded by people we love and care deeply about.

Stay strong, keep fighting. Together we will make it through.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: November 23, 2016
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